Who’s in charge of the book business?
March 29, 2014
Most of my life I have taken the book business for granted.
It was like the TV shows of my youth.
In those olden days in a rural part of the southern United States we had a TV set with rabbit ears antenna that on a good day could receive three channels, each of which corresponded to one of the major networks: ABC, NBC and CBS.
That was it. Those three outlets provided all the news, all the entertainment.
So, also was it with books.
A person went to the bookstore, browsed a selection of books on the racks and picked out a book.
I never gave any thought to the origins of the books presented for sale, or to the fact that they represented a small slice of all books.
I thought the volumes the large publishers produced were the only books that existed. And for the most part they were. Of course, there were self-published books on a particular topic, such as cook books or histories of local churches, or a tribute to a regional personality. Those books suffered often from poor design, but no one cared because they served a specific purpose, and they weren’t real books like the ones in the bookstore.
Oh, how digital has changed all that.
Bookstores are struggling to survive, and the barbarians are at the gate.
Who is in charge of the book business now?
It’s a toss up.
The players are Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the trad publishers, and one group of newcomers.
In the new world of publishing authors have a seat at the table.
I don’t know if it is fair to say that authors now rule the roost in the book business.
Certainly they are not in charge of it.
The people who own the infrastructure still control the game.
To some extent. I mean where would the current batch of Indie writers be without such things as KDP and Nook Press? Or where would authors who narrate audiobooks be without ACX?
Herein lies the problem. Nowadays the author has autonomy, but it is a self-determination dependent on the folks who own and control the means of distribution. In that sense little has changed since my childhood where three networks dominated TV.
The one certain thing is–?
Digital publishing is like a collection of soap bubbles, those bubbles we used to blow out of a wand dipped in soapy water to watch them float and drift with the wind until they burst.
Next year will come a new bubble, another the year after that.
The Indie writer must keep her ear to the ground, listen to the coming herds, make strategic decisions as the book business evolves. That’s why all Indie writers need each other. Only the cooperative effort of those who are on the front lines, down in the pit of book production and promotion, can keep us abreast of the rapid changes in the industry and give us the best chance possible to find readers for our work.
Here’s to the brotherhood and sisterhood of Indie writers.